This is another great example why having these zero issues is a good idea. A year into the New 52, it's apparent that this isn't the DC Universe we're used to. In many cases, we've been left wondering what has or hasn't happened before the first issues. The zero issues are to offer some clarification as to who these characters were before.
Jason Todd is often seen as a sort of complex character. We know he's had a couple different takes in the pre- and post-Crisis world. Lobdell spells out exactly what Jason's story is. In fact, he goes back before he was even conceived.
This isn't just a retelling of what we already do. Because of the time frame instilled upon us, we have more of a sense that a lot has happened in a shorter period of time. It may not exactly be the case since characters don't age normally in comics but the feeling is still there. Some of the adjustments Lobdell makes, in particular with his parents, works out nicely and cuts some of the clutter.
Even though we don't get a full look at the time Jason and Batman spent together, we have an idea. The fact that Joker is thrown into the mix before Jason's death is a huge tease that hopefully will be addressed in the upcoming 'Death of the Family.'
I have to admit that the first time I read this, I was unsure of the back up story. It changes a bit of Jason's history in a way. Reading it a second time (yes, I read it more than once before reviewing), it does make sense in a way. Also throughout, there is still the chance that we may not have the full truth about everything.
It's always hard to read an issue when the art team changes. It's understandable when it has to happen in trying to stay on schedule and all. The art in the main feature didn't quite jump out at me as it normally does in this title. It's not fair to necessarily compare artists but it took a little getting used to.
In the past, Jason's dad was said to be working for Two-Face before his disappearance. His status as a low-life is changed a little here. In some ways it's better that there isn't any connection to anything Batman related with his dad but he also lost some of his mystique when it comes to wondering what Jason's dad was like.
Jason Todd's past has been revealed. We get to find out who he was before his death. This is what the zero issues are for. Seeing the life Jason had before let's us know why he is the way he is today. He is far from the perfect character but we can see that he is a product of his environment. His life with his parents and with Bruce offer two completely different inspirations in shaping who he becomes. Joker's appearance here has the potential to change things. We'll have to see how that plays out and it definitely makes things pretty interesting.